My undergraduate degree is in art history/museum studies from Randolph College located in Lynchburg, VA. Upon graduating in 2014, I interned at the Lyric Opera of Chicago where I first gained interest in education programs within art institutions/organizations. In the next couple of years I worked as a research assistant with the VMFA’s education department and an educator with the Valentine museum. During this time, I quickly discovered how much I enjoyed interacting with students both in a classroom and museum setting.
My passion for art and education and a growing interest in expanding my own studio skills led to my interest in applying to VCU’s MAE + Licensure track. After meeting faculty members and a current student in the Art Education department, I knew this program was the right one for me!
What has surprised you most about the VCU art education program?
The compassion of our professors! They make themselves available to us, and they understand that we are all learning together.
Why did you want to go to graduate school? Why did you choose VCU?
I decided to apply to graduate school because I wanted to shift gears in my professional career, and I knew that graduate school would provide me with the resources and experience necessary to do so. I chose VCU for a variety of reasons including proximity and reputation, but also because I was able to meet professors and currents students at the Art Education open house, which confirmed my interest in the program.
Andrew Bell is a certified art teacher from suburban Chicago who has been teaching elementary and secondary art for the past 10 years. He is a maker, a painter, a photographer, and a graphic designer.
Tell us about your experience with the art education community at VCU?
I attended undergrad in a cornfield without the same experiential access that Richmond offers. This city has a wide breadth of art centers, community spaces, galleries, and museums all with very strong VCU relationships. Being at VCUarts has connected me to a litany of organizations and people who have expanded my worldview. Richmond has many of the same art world benefits of living in a major metropolitan center without the regular stressors one would expect.
What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?
I came in ready for the traditional model of school where I would be passively fed information and then regurgitate said information for an exam. Instead I have been given a skillset that allows me to research and understand information in a way that will continue in a self-replicating manner well beyond my time here. All members of the faculty share their amazing strengths as researchers with the students, allowing us to reframe our thinking through a critical and contemporary lens.
I have long been interested in using Art as a means of enriching and empowering others. This was largely due to having been born and raised in Zimbabwe. Thus I attended then graduated from VCU in 2008 with a BFA in Sculpture and Extended Media with a minor in Painting and Printmaking as well as a BFA in Communication Arts. It was a life altering experience. I was able throughout my undergraduate career to accumulate a wealth of community building as well as teaching experiences. After graduation I worked in the United States gaining my teaching related experiences until I returned to Zimbabwe in 2009. In Zimbabwe I worked for my family law practice acting as a consultant to the creative arts community. I also continued my education earning a Masters from Africa University (Mutare, Zimbabwe) in Intellectual Property (2012).
My time back home was an opportunity to reflect and observe about what my role might be within the Art Education community before applying to the program. I found that my interests had evolved from the traditional model of a classroom at a specific place with a specific time schedule. I now had begun to explore means by which students could interact with one another beyond geographical, time and cultural differences. Thus I chose return to VCU because of the faculty in the Art Education Department. It has been greatly rewarding as it has allowed me to look on past teaching experiences with new eyes while exploring new and current practice. The professors are available and invested in your success making sure to guide your research interests while making you aware of opportunities that develop in the field. An unexpected resource is the students in the program who all have a wealth of diverse connections they have cultivated with a willingness to collaborate. I know as I continue in the program that my growth as an art educator is not the only thing I will gain. I will have a lifetime of dedicated mentors and peers who will challenge as well as inspire me through out my career.
Esi Sam Annan
I was born and raised in Cape Coast, Ghana and hold a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Rural Art and Industry from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. I have always loved art and have often volunteered to teach art to various groups of children in different settings. My favorite memories of teaching art are from March 2004 to August 2009, when I taught kids with special needs during my University breaks. I came to VCU to pursue the MAE program because VCU is ranked one of the top Global Universities and has one of the best art programs in America. Teaching art has been my dream for a long time, and I wanted to be at an institution that could help me acquire more knowledge, allow me to develop my art skills, and provide me the opportunity to maximize my potential.
VCU provides an excellent academic program with great diversity and friendly, welcoming students and faculty. I am currently working under a teacher mentor in one of the public schools in Richmond to acquire better teaching skills and to learn how to interact and work efficiently with students. I know the kind of exposure I continue to experience in this program will help me to meet the demands that people have of today’s art educators.